MATCH REPORT: Blackpool 2-1 Hartlepool
Blackpool's top scorer Kyle Vassell marked his return from injury with a match-winning goal to earn his side a 2-1 win against Hartlepool.
The Seasiders were forced to come from behind in what was an entertaining and end-to-end affair, having conceded a sloppy early goal with Lewis Alessandra taking advantage.
But they responded immediately through Bright Osayi-Samuel and it was left to Vassell, who replaced Mark Cullen as a late substitute, to notch the all-important killer blow after spending a month out on the sidelines with a broken foot.
The win extends Blackpool’s unbeaten run to nine games and sees them climb back up into the play-offs for the first time since December.
Buoyed by their recent form, Blackpool made a confident start to the game and went close to an early goal through the unmarked Clark Robertson, whose header was comfortably collected by Pools goalkeeper Joe Fryer diving down to his left.
Mark Cullen was presented with a golden opportunity to extend his fine solo scoring run but he wasn’t able to get off a clean shot from Nathan Delfouneso’s pullback.
But Hartlepool looked confident on the ball and had a number of promising forays into the Blackpool half - one of which led to an opener for the visitors.
But the goal was all of Blackpool’s own doing, as hesitant defending from Tom Aldred and Kelvin Mellor gifted Lewis Alessandra the chance to pounce on the bouncing ball to turn and fire low into the bottom corner.
The Seasiders weren’t behind for long as they hit back immediately through Bright Osayi-Samuel, who bagged his third goal in his last two matches with a clinical finish.
The 19-year-old skillfully took down Delfouneso’s cross at the back post, ignoring the protests for handball from the away fans to send a drilled effort flying into the bottom corner.
Gary Boywer’s men immediately pushed forward for a second and continued to enjoy success down the flanks, with Hartlepool left back Nicky Deverdicks struggling to cope with Delfouneso and Kelvin Mellor.
As good as Mellor was going forward, he was equally as poor going the other way. He once again gifted possession to Hartlepool in his own penalty box but the Blackpool backline managed to clear.
At times the home side looked completely at sea defensively and Dean Lyness was forced to produce a vital stop to keep his side level, as he spread himself to deny Lewis Hawkins with his feet from close range.
A goalmouth scramble ensued but Lyness eventually managed to collect from Padraig Amond’s low shot.
Alessandra continued to pose Blackpool plenty of problems in the final third and he went close with an effort from range, but Lyness was equal to it and tipped it over his crossbar.
The second half remained as open as it was in the first, with Michael Woods finding himself in some space for the visitors only to blaze wildly over with a volley from the edge of the box.
The Seasiders responded with two chances in quick succession, with Osayi-Samuel shooting narrowly wide before Mark Cullen wasted a golden opportunity - dragging his shot wide of the far post after finding himself through on goal.
Mellor had a good chance to find one of his teammates in the Hartlepool box but he failed to find anyone with his cutback before Neil Danns went close with a shot on the half-volley.
The two sides continued to exchange blows and midway through the half it was Hartlepool who came close with two gilt-edged chances.
The first saw Lyness save with his feet from Amond after the referee had waved play on, before Brad Walker’s header from the resulting corner was cleared off the line.
Cullen’s last action in the game saw him nod a header down for the onrushing Brad Potts, who could only steer his acrobatic volley into the side netting.
Potts found himself in the thick of the action once again as he latched onto Jordan Flores’ through ball before seeing his shot denied by Joe Fryer at the near post.
The visitors began to tire in the final stages and the last thing they would have wanted to see was the arrival of Kyle Vassell, who replaced Cullen.
And lo and behold, the striker - who had missed a month of action with a broken foot - put the Seasiders back in the lead with a freak of a goal, with his cross missing everyone and dropping into the bottom corner.
The visitors pressed for a late equaliser but it wasn't to be, which meant the Seasiders picked up their fifth win from their last six games.
Blackpool: Lyness, Mellor, Aldred, Robertson, Daniel, Payne, Danns (Black), Potts, Osayi-Samuel, Delfouneso (Flores), Cullen (Vassell)
Subs not used: Slocombe, Aimson, Odelusi, Matt
Hartlepool: Fryer, Donnelly, Harrison, Walker, Deverdics, Featherstone, Woods (Roonehy), Hawkins, Alessandra, Amond, Thomas
Subs not used: Dudzinski, Richardson, Bates, Hawkes, Oates, Rodney
Referee: Darren England
Attendance: 5,374 (1,684 Hartlepool)